Friday, September 20, 2013

Before there was Balko, there was Royko

Radley Balko and Mike Royko
This article also appears at the Freedom Bunker.

Royko, Mike Royko of the Chicago Daily News that is.  I am a fan of both men and I must admit, my regular reading of Mike Royko did not kick into high gear until the mid 1980s.  However, doing some recent research for a book project, I have been reading a few Royko articles from 1972, articles that predate the birth of Radley Balko by over three years.

I came across Balko's writing in one of his early blog posts years ago on Reason's Hit & Run blog, where he was taking shots at National Review's blog creator, Jonah Goldberg, over something or other that has left my memory.  It did not take long before I was reading Balko on a regular basis, and you cannot read Balko on a regular basis without reading a cop-shoots-dog story or three.  At Hit & Run it might be an exaggeration to say that those stories were a daily feature, but they appeared at least weekly.

Well, before Radley was thought of, Mike Royko was on the cop shoots dog beat in Chicago.  On January 7, 1972 the Chicago Daily News published, "The police get their man" by Mike Royko on his page 3 column.  Sorry no link, the Daily News does not have an online archive.  However, the article is available on microfilm from the Chicago Public Library.

"The police get their man" is a column about Mr. Robert Sheppard of Chicago's Far South Side, and his 90 pound dog Beau.  Mr. Sheppard, a salesman, lived n a modest two-story home.  While he was out for dinner, a prowler visited his home and Beau greeted him by gnawing the burglar's leg.

The burglar fled upstairs and hid behind a door, only to be seen by a neighbor who called the police.  While hiding behind the door, big dog a-growlin',  the burglar made a call too, to his mother and told her he was trapped by an angry dog on the second story of a stranger's house.

Chicago's finest arrived before the trespasser's mom and assessed the situation.  They investigated and discussed things with the neighbor who called earlier, then they rang the doorbell, only to hear big barking, etc.  While they were debating their next move, the prowler called the police with a story that he was hiding in the house from street toughs who had accosted him outside.

After a while, the police entered the house, Beau identified them as strangers, charged, and was felled by two shots from the police.  A third round put Beau out of his suffering.  A faithful dog just doing his job, gunned down in the line of duty.

The cops arrested the burglar and went on their way, leaving Beau in the driveway, where Mr. Sheppard found it.

He could not bear to move the body and he called Chicago's "animal removal service," who gave Mr. Sheppard the runaround, for three days and eventually "told him off," presumably for thinking that anybody in a city office called "animal removal" should bother to remove an animal killed by city cops.  Nobody lifted a finger to help Mr. Sheppard until Mike Royko called about the situation.

As Royko noted in closing, it is doubtful that the crook was going to get away, and the city could have called a team with tranquilizer darts for the tigers that occasionally escaped from the local zoos.  The situation could have been handled without killing Beau.  Yes, all this is true and obvious in hindsight.  Hell, if I were the cop at a door with a 90 pound dog on the other side, I would want to find a solution that avoided opening the door too.

But what about after?  I was just 10 years old when this happened, and maybe I am imagining things.  But, I am pretty darn sure that if almost anywhere in Cook County, and Chicago for sure, if Robert Sheppard shot a dog three times and left it in his driveway, it would not take three days of blowing off the bureaucrats before he was in a jail cell.  Telling them off at day three might result in a "contempt of bureaucrat" beating.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

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